Lies Told by Forbes and Big Pharma on Elizabeth Warren Recommendation

Executive Summary

  • Pfizer paid Forbes to run a highly deceptive article from Pfizer’s head of research on how Pfizer should not pay for any of the NIH’s budget.


John LaMattina, the head of research at Pfizer, wrote a highly deceptive article regarding a plan introduced by Elizabeth Warren. We cover these deceptions in the article Senator Elizabeth Warren Has Big Pharma in Her Crosshairs.

Forbes Article

To begin, while this article appeared in Forbes, Forbes had nothing to do with writing it. Anyone can put any article in Forbes by simply paying Forbes to run the article. However, as the article is nothing more than a press release from Pfizer, Forbes is still responsible, as they pretend to run a media entity. A Chinese company owns Forbes, and anyone can put anything they want into Forbes, as Forbes no longer has staff writers — so it is a PR frontend for corporations.

Important Point #1: Asking Pharma to Pay Anything for the NIH Budget is “Attacking Big Pharma”

The article in Forbes begins as follows.

Attacking Big Pharma seem to be a rite of passage for politicians aspiring for higher office. Sen. Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts, rumored to be interested in making a Presidential run, has announced that she will introduce a bill next week that would require drug makers that break the law to send some of their profits to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Here are some remarks that she made at a recent event, according to Sam Baker of the National Journal.

This makes it sound like pharmaceutical companies are victims, and they own Washington, DC. And LaMattina knows this, so this attempt to set up Big Pharma as a victim is ridiculous.

The Forbes quote continues.

“Over the last 10 years, some of the wealthiest drug companies – those that capitalize on government research to generate billions of dollars in revenues through the sale of blockbuster drugs – have found another way to boost profits. They’ve been caught defrauding Medicare and Medicaid, withholding critical safety information about their drugs, marketing their drugs for uses that aren’t approved, and giving doctors kickbacks for writing prescriptions for their drugs.”

The bill that Sen. Warren plans to introduce next week would require pharmaceutical companies to fund more of the basic research conducted by the NIH. Essentially, some, if not all, of the settlements paid by companies for breaking the law as she outlined would go to the NIH. Given that almost $13 billion in fines were levied by the government against pharmaceutical companies between 2007 and 2012, this could make meaningfully more dollars available to the NIH for conducting basic research. Sen. Warren is also proposing that offending companies would also be required to contribute 1% of their annual profits to the NIH as well. Had these proposals been in place for the past five years, the NIH would have had an extra $6 billion (20%) more to spend each year.

She further goes on to justify her plan by going back to the roots of drug discovery. Sen. Warren correctly contends that the pharmaceutical industry has benefitted greatly by research that has been funded by taxpayers through the NIH. This publicly funded research has, in fact, led to medicines that have accrued billions of dollars in sales.

On this point, as the pharmaceutical companies make so much money, and the NIH has so little to do with improving public health (as I cover in the article How the NIH Head Tries to Explain Why NIH Funding Does Not Improve Health),(Subscription Required) a natural question is why pharmaceutical companies can’t pay for their own R&D. Pharma introduces dangerous drugs, routinely engages in fraudulent sales practices, pushes ineffective medicines through the FDA.

Given all of this, why do they receive a subsidy from the government? It is a very logical question to ask.

The Forbes quote continues…

Actually, I agree with Sen. Warren on a few points. The fines levied against the industry for the illegal marketing of drugs is a major contribution to the industry’s poor image and I have railed against this in the past.

That isn’t easy to believe.

Pfizer is one of the main culprits of this and is known as a highly unethical company, yet LaMattina continues as the head of research for this company. So LaMattina will bring up this as a faux concern.

I also agree that the NIH is grossly underfunded and, as these fines apparently go into the government’s general coffers, redirecting these dollars to the NIH could prove valuable. This is, however, not a sustainable solution to NIH funding (especially if pharmaceutical company fines decrease over the coming years as we all hope) and other long-term solutions need to be found.

Why not? And secondly, Warren is not proposing that it is the only funding source.